In today's First Reading and Gospel, we hear about the commitment required for followers of God. When we answer God's call, there is no turning back. We must dedicate our lives completely to God and walk steadfastly down the path He has chosen for us.
The First Reading, from 1 Kings 9, describes the call of the prophet Elijah's successor, Elisha. God orders Elijah, "You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you." Elijah obeys. He finds Elisha plowing his fields with twelve yoke of oxen. Elijah walks up and throws his cloak around Elisha. Elisha immediately grasps the significance. He understands that he has been called to something great. He leaves the oxen and runs after Elijah. At first, though, he hesitates just slightly: "Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you." Elijah replies, "Go back! Have I done anything to you?" With this, he subtly lets Elisha know that his new commitment, if he so chooses, must be total, or he should not make it at all.
Elisha does go back but only briefly. He slaughters the oxen, boils them, and gives them to his people to eat in a gesture of farewell and blessing. Then he leaves his home and joins Elijah as an attendant. He never looks back. He has made his choose.
Jesus intensifies the level of commitment for His followers in today's Gospel, Luke 9:51-62. On the way to Jerusalem, several would-be followers approach Jesus. One says to Him. "I will follow You wherever You go." Jesus replies, "Foxes have dens and birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head." In other words, following Jesus is not easy. It takes a commitment to let go of the things of this world and step out in faith, trusting in Jesus for everything.
Jesus tells another potential follower, "Follow Me." He has called this man to a life with Him, but the man hesitates. "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." Jesus' answer seems harsh: "Let the dead bury the dead." Sometimes following Jesus even means letting go of loved ones.
A third person approaches Jesus and says, "I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." Again, Jesus seems a bit harsh: "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." The commitment must be complete. There can be no backsliding. Followers of Jesus must put Jesus first...always. This does not mean that they cannot love their families and even enjoy the good things of this world, but Jesus must always take priority. When there is a choice between Jesus and someone or something else, the Christian must always choose Jesus. This is the level of commitment expected of all of us. There is no turning back.